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The Idealog guide to the best New Zealand-made* floating things


How did humans first arrive in Aotearoa? The M?ori came in giant canoes known as wakas. Some of them were up to 40 metres long, and could carry travellers across the turbulent South Seas for weeks at a time. Even today, they are considered technological marvels.

HMS Dunedin

New Zealand’s first successful shipment of frozen meat to Britain in 1882 had a massive impact on Aotearoa’s development, not the least of which because it proved that something New  Zealand had a lot of (meat from livestock) could be sent to literally the other side of the world. For the record-breaking journey, about 5,000 carcases were stored inside a coal-powered Bell Coleman freezing plant, which cooled the entire hold to 22 degrees Celsius below the outside temperature.

Incredible as the journey was, the Dunedin had a less-than-glorious fate: the ship disappeared in the Southern Ocean in 1890, and is yet to be found.

Floating homes

This isn’t a new concept by any means, but it is in New Zealand. As Idealog covered in 2015, Fairway Bay and Block NZ winners of 2014, Alex and Corban, created 20 floating homes on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. Michael Webb-Speight, development consultant for Fairway Bays, said this idea is a natural flow-on from having boats in the marina. And if this idea can work in Aotearoa, we can always hope it can be used elsewhere in the world, like on islands threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change.

Boats built from boxes

Purekraft boats are shipped in boxes – and you assemble them yourself much like IKEA furniture. Needless to say, it’s recommended you triple-check you’ve inserted all the screws before taking your new boat-from-a-box out on the water.

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Fake sea creatures

The Seabreacher is a jetboat that steers like a plane, but leaps out of the water like a whale. Basically, it’s a fully sealed twin-engine contraption that can take two people under water at 60km/h before hurling back towards the surface and into the sky.

New Zealand-born, US based designer Rob Innes told Stuff a few years back that it was like a “custom-designed hot rod for the water”.

Wanna ride the thing? Just go to Queenstown.  

Amphibious vehicles

Let’s be real: when we think of amphibious vehicles, we tend to think of either US Navy SEALs or something Sir Richard Branson might have sitting around in his back yard. But guess who’s designed a product that can help super-spies or the super-rich do their thing?

Auckland-based Blender Design and Sealegs are the folks behind the Amphibious Enablement System (AES), which allows boats to operate on land as well as in the water.

Known as the Sealegs System 100, it works for boats up to 12 metres long or weighing up to 6,500 kilograms – in other words, about the size of a whale.

Sure, that sounds pretty spiffy. But is it really, well, worth it? Sealegs claims to have sold 1153 units and boasts clients from around the globe – including the NZ Coastguard, Thai Navy and Malaysian fire and police departments – so you be the judge. 


Jetboats were originally designed by Sir William Hamilton to be used on Aotearoa’s fast-flowing and shallow rivers, in particular to overcome the problem of propellers striking rocks in such waters. Today, HamiltonJet is one of the world’s leading jetboat manufacturers, with its boats sold around the world. You can probably blame/thank him for all those jetskis. 

???Big fancy yachts 

New Zealand has a massive marine industry worth billions of dollars each year. Companies like Core Builders Composites and Southern Spars are renowned for their high-performance America’s Cup boats, while companies like Stabicraft and Surtees have gained plaudits for their innovative fishing boats.

The New Zealand superyacht building scene is also highly regarded. For instance, Alloy Yachts built the vessel Georgia in 2000 and, at the time, it was the largest sloop (48.62 metres) with the tallest rig in the world.

Giant ducks

New Zealand has a well-known obsession with oversized novelty items. Carrots, L&P bottles, trout, salmon, sheep, kiwifruit… the list goes on. But to launch Channel Four, MediaWorks and Special Group made one that could float. 

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